I am truly amazed NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was able to pull this off.
From last season to this one, based in large part on the data we gathered, we changed the format of our game. We went from a possible 18 time-outs to 14 time-outs, we standardized the length of the time-outs, and we shortened halftime by a few minutes. And we made additional changes to the commercial format, because we were able to see exactly where we were losing fans.
S+B: Where were you losing them?
SILVER: Not surprisingly, we lose the highest number of fans when we move off live action, especially at halftime. And we lose fans at every commercial break. So we’re experimenting, with Turner and ESPN, with not leaving the arena completely during commercial breaks, and instead having a split screen, where we stay with the huddle at the same time we show an ad.
That’s right, he was able to convince the networks to shear off some commercial breaks. How?
… On the one hand, they’d like the full attention of a viewer. On the other hand, they might prefer to keep all of the viewers and find ways to create connections with their products and engage directly with the game.
Our games are roughly two hours and 15 minutes, but the average viewer is watching for approximately 50 minutes. We know that the most efficient way to increase our ratings is not to find someone who isn’t watching at all, but to take those people who are watching an average of 50 minutes and get them to watch 55 minutes. And that’s where changes in the presentations — finding other ways to engage fans, creating other data fields for our viewers, or using different audio experiences like player mics, or different camera angles — can help increase our ratings.
He had a persuasive argument and sufficient clout to sell this. Again, color me amazed.
And, yeah, I get Jason Kirk’s point that every sport could learn a little something here, but can you think of a single person running a conference or the NCAA who has both the sense and the confidence to walk into CBS, Fox or ESPN and sell something like it? Sadly, I can’t… at least not without laughing first.